By James Nalton, Football Whispers
The £52million man was struggling with a thigh injury on his arrival at the club, but since coming into the side at the end of August the Frenchman had started to show the quality which persuaded Manchester City to fork out the money which would prise him from Monaco.
But just five games into his City career, he finds himself on the treatment table and Guardiola is without a left back.
The 23-year-old is off to Barcelona to see a knee specialist, and it won’t be until they’ve been able to take a proper look at the injury that they’ll know the full extent of his injury and how long he’ll be out for.
“I think it is going to be a major setback,” Guardiola admitted after City’s Champions League victory against Shakhtar Donetsk.
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“We are going to see finally what he has. Wait until Thursday but I am pretty sure that it will unfortunately be a little bit longer than we expected or would like.”
When it comes to replacements the club could have trouble finding a like-for-like alternative, but they do have plenty of options in their squad, and one surprise choice may be the most effective.
The only player with similar attribute to Mendy down the left would have been Spanish youth academy product Angelino. But he’s been loaned out to NAC Breda for the season which leaves them without a natural alternative to Mendy.
This means Guardiola will have to get creative, and this type of problem solving tends to be something he revels in. He’s seemed happy using another new signing, Danilo, at left back at times during the early parts of this season,
Leroy Sane has also been used in the position if a left wing-back has been required. But the German has been in fine form recently having returned to the attack, and dropping him back to wing-back now might be a waste.
“We will see in January,” said Guardiola when asked if they will bring a replacement in.
“We thought next summer about looking for another left-back, another replacement, but we will see what we do.
“We have alternatives in our squad – Danilo, Fabian Delph, Fernandinho, can play there so we will see as we go along.”
And Delph could emerge as the surprise option in the position after impressing there later in the game against Crystal Palace, even managing to get himself on the scoresheet with the goal of the game – a right-footed curler from outside the area which was even more impressive than Kevin De Bruyne’s subsequent effort against Shakhtar.
Delph started their Champions League game at left back, and he could be set to stay there for the foreseeable future, save for the usual Guardiola rotation.
If the shape changes back to a 3-5-2 or a 3-4-3 then Danilo or Sane are more likely to be used, but the return of the Englishman to the setup gives his manager an interesting option in a back four.
“Midfielders, when they are intelligent, can play anywhere,” said Guardiola.
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“Fabian is a nice guy, there are no complaints when he doesn’t play or is injured. He understands the rules and played an amazing role. He is clever and I’m so happy for him. Last year he was injured and he deserved more minutes.”
The Spaniard also suggested that he could use left footed attacking midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko in the position, but again the use of the 20-year-old Ukrainian would probably be more suitable in a system which uses wing-backs as opposed to a back four.
Regardless of his eventual choices, the former Barcelona manager isn’t averse to using players out of position or converting attributes which allow a player thrive in one part of the pitch into ones which are then useful in another.
The left-footedness of Delph, Sane, and even Zinchenko would make them the obvious choices in these left sided positions. But fans could also see Fernandinho and Danilo line up there as inverted full backs.
Either way, watching City will continue to be an entertaining spectacle, it might just lack a little bit of flair for as long as the likeable Mendy remains on the sidelines.